Win a Meal for 2 at The Botanist in Reading, Berkshire!

The Botanist is opening up in Reading, Berkshire soon and I can't wait!! 

I have been invited to check it out next week and then to the official launch on the 1st of June and I am super excited to take a look and a taste! I love checking out new places and The Botanist has definitely piped my interest. 

The design of the logo itself has drawn me in, but after a visit to their website - - who could not be intrigued by this magical looking place! Opening soon in the old Barclay's building, that has been empty for too long now, here in Reading! 

A concept like no other, offering a soon to be world-famous selection of botanical cocktails, craft beers and ales, Champagne and wine. Food inspired by the deli, rotisserie and BBQ. With live music every night, sublime social times are guaranteed!

Watch this space for my thoughts and first impressions!!

Be in with a chance to win a three course meal and a bottle of wine for two by following the details in the Rafflecopter below. Be sure to read the T&C's before entering!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions

  1. You must be 18 years of age to enter and live in the United Kingdom. 
  2. Winner will have to visit The Botanist in Reading at the address above to claim the prize of a three course meal and a bottle of wine for two people, as prize is not valid at other locations.
  3. Winner will be picked at random via the Rafflecopter widget. 
  4. Prize is provided by The Botanist via Stellar Public Relations and is subject to change. No cash exchange/alternative. 

* All thoughts and opinions are my own. See the contact/policy page above for more information. I am not being compensated in any other way to promote this giveaway.

**Images are taken from The Botanist website, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

Easy Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Fudge

A while back I wrote a post on how easy fudge recipes were popping up everywhere and I wanted to put a couple of them to the test and so I had started with one that used condensed milk and this one using nothing but peanut butter, icing sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips.

It doesn't get any easier then this. Peanut butter could be replaced with any nut butter or something like Nutella, if you happen to like Nutella, I don't.

There is something to be said by proper fudge that uses a thermometer and takes time and patience, but sometimes in a world that is busy and full of other complicated things why not let something be easy and delicious! Like this chocolate chip peanut butter fudge!

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Fudge

250g creamy peanut butter
228g of salted butter
1 tsp of vanilla extract
450g icing sugar
100-150g chocolate chips, milk or dark

Prepare an 8 inch or 20 cm square baking tin by lining it with tin foil leaving it to hang over the top. In a heavy bottom sauce pan melt the peanut butter and butter together over a low/medium heat mixing until it's melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extra. Sift in the icing sugar and fold into the peanut butter until fully combined, then fold in the chocolate chips before pressing the fudge into your prepared baking tin and using the spatula smooth it out, cover with the excess tin foil and leave to chill in the fridge for approximately 2-4 hours or until firm. Cut into whatever size squares that you'd like.

This easy fudge is great to eat, but it's also makes a great gift to anyone who loves peanut butter!!

*Check out other fudge recipes I have tried Caramel Biscuit Fudge (easy) and Rum & Sultana Fudge (proper fudge)
*recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction blog

Panasonic Slow Juicer: MJ-L500 Review

To start with I was given this juicer by Panasonic after visiting them at their headquarters and spending a day in their Idea's Kitchen! That was like ages ago now. However, I think sometimes with kitchen gadgets you have to give them time to see if they are actually something you use.

I'd be lying if I told you I use this juicer every day, but I do use it more often then other novelty appliances. My favorite thing to use it for is homemade squash.

It's nearly impossible to drink some fruit juices naturally, they are either too sweet or sour or bitter or whatever they have to be diluted. Which is basically squash without all the additives and extra sugar or sweetener.

It's also a great tool to make smoothies and juices! Recipes linked below! I have yet to test it using frozen fruit, but it is one of it's features. Basically when the fruit is frozen it doesn't separate the juice, but makes a sorbet. Might be something I try as the weather gets warmer.

It's called a slow juicer, but it's not literal, it's slow because it squeezes the juice out slowly, extracting more juice and preserving more vitamins. Which is what makes it different then other juicers.

Overall I find this juicer easy to assemble, use, and to clean. Which is something people moan about when I have read other reviews on juicers. If you are in the market for a juicer I would suggest this one!

Juice and Smoothie Recipes: 

Apple & Carrot Juice
Pineapple Fizz 
Super Detox Smoothie
Orange Major
Cold Buster Juice II

*Find out how I got on at the Panasonic Idea's Kitchen here! (November 2016)
*All opinions are my own, I was given the juicer after my visit to the ideas kitchen, but I was not asked to provide a review of the juicer nor was I compensated in any other way. Please see my contact/policy page above for more information. 

Lola's: A Cake Journey Around the World {book review}

Traveling around the world is a dream a lot of people have, but very few get to experience. I have been a few places here and there and I would love to go more places, but in the mean time I will live vicariously through this cook book! 

They take us to Northern and Southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, to the America's and the Caribbean, and to Australasia and Asia! Sharing with us classic recipes of cakes and bakes we all know and love like England's classic Victoria Sponge, Black Forest Cake from Germany, Nanaimo bars from Canada,  and Lamingtons from Australia! As well as new and adventurous recipes such as Sacher torte that comes from Austria and Paris brest from France! 

The authors have reassured us that all these recipes are capable of being made in the home kitchen, but not every recipe is created equal and they have given each recipe a number of whisks to let us know the level of difficulty or the amount of effort that will be needed for each recipe! I like it when cookbooks do this as it allows you to gage the amount of work and time you will have to commit too to recreate the recipe! 

Here are a few of the recipes I found interesting and calling my name to try out sometime! 
Banoffee cake - England
Stout cake - Ireland
Speculoos cake - Netherlands
Dobos torte - Hungary
Lemon olive oil cake - Greece
Mosaic cake - Turkey
Baklava cake - Saudi Arabia
Brazil nut cake - Bolivia 
Black cake - Trinidad
Jelly cake - New Zealand
Matcha cake - Japan
Sesame cake - India

That's only the tip of the iceberg, there are so many other recipes in this book that sound and look delicious. The photography is beautiful and some recipes even warrant an extra page or two of it's history! 

Food and culture go together hand in hand and if either of these things interest you this is definitely a book worth checking out! 

*I was given a copy of Lola's: A Cake Journey Around the World  to review by the publisher, Ryland Peters & Small. Retails at £18.99 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page for more information.

Oange Major: orange, pineapple, banana, & yogurt smoothie

I made a smoothie! When one visits a juice and/or smoothie place they always have crazy names like Strawberry Dream or BananaRama or something. Generally I am not that creative when it comes to names.

As a kid I named all my stuffed animals what they were. Penguin (my favorite stuffed toy) was called Penguin and his best friend Walrus....yup was a walrus. They are still best friends. I also had a platypus (he was a beanie baby, before beanie babies were a thing) he came with a name, but I changed it to Platypus. Because he was the original color I had a lady offer me $500 for him back in the day and I said no. I was a kid, I didn't have bills to pay.

Anyhow, I was drinking this and googling cocktails and something was called Major something or another and I was like I should call this Major something or another and I did. But at the end of the day it's an orange, pineapple, banana, and yogurt smoothie and here is how I made it, it's super easy.

Orange Major

serves 2 
1-2 oranges
1/4 pineapple
1/2 banana
50g vanilla yogurt

Juice the orange and pineapple and then blend with the banana and yogurt. If you like it cold add a few ice cubes!

It's perfectly orangey with just the right amount of pineapple and banana! This would also make great ice lollies. Pour them in ice lolly moulds and freeze! Yum!

Saffron Soul by Mira Manek {book review}

Earlier this week Mira Manek released her debut book Saffron Soul, but she is no stranger to having her recipes published; they have been featured in numerous publications as well as her own website.

Her love of traditional Indian food and vegetarian dishes have lead her to share this love with all of us! Mira's cookbook, for me, is an entirely new and refreshing way to look at Indian food! I am no vegetarian and my experience with Indian food is left to westernised restaurants and I can't wait to get stuck into the recipes in this book!

The chapters are broken down into ingredients and key pastes and garnishes followed by chapters titled Soulful Mornings (breakfast), Anytime Favourites (snacks and teatime treats), Light Meals (lunch) , Traditional Thalis (Thali is a meal of various dishes that aims to offer all of the 6 different flavours of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent, and spicy all on one platter) - probably the chapter I found the most interesting because I had never heard of Thalis before and I love how she uses her mother's and both of her grandmother's traditional Thali, then there is a chapter on desserts (always a great chapter), and last but not least spiced drinks.

Normally it is this part of the review that I would list all the recipes I would like to try, but with this title I just don't know where I would start? Here are a few pictures to get a peek into the book!

*I was given a copy of Saffron Soul by Mira Manek to review by the publisher, jacqui small. Retails at £20 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page for more information.

Blackberry Crumble Custard Tarts

If you have read my previous post you will already know this, but if you have come here from another source then you should know that these tarts were inspired by a fictional King Edward VI from a booked titled Lady Jane: the not entirely true story. If you'd like to know a bit more about the story and my thoughts on the book click on the title above.

This post is to talk about these Blackberry Crumble Custard Tarts...... which were super amazing! In the book the King loves his blackberries especially as pie. The thing is I am not a huge fan of fruit pie because cooked mushy fruit just doesn't appeal to me.

Brainstorming, isn't something you just learn at school, an idea other then pie was fairly simple. It went like this: use fresh blackberries, fresh berries taste great in tarts, tarts are similar to pie, custard goes well in tarts and done.

So, no these aren't exactly blackberry pie, but as the real fictional king loved blackberries in or out of pie I am positive he would have approved of these.

Blackberry Crumble Custard Tarts

Shortcrust Pastry with orange zest

250g plain flour
100g icing sugar
pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, cold grated or cubed
2 egg yolks
1 egg
zest of 1 orange

Sift the flour and icing sugar together in a large mixing bowl, add the pinch of salt and the cold grated butter. Rub gently between your finger tips until it resembles bread crumbs - try to handle it as little as possible. *I sometimes run my hands under cold water and pat dry before this last step as my hands are generally warm.
Gently whisk the egg yolks and yolk together, make a well in the bread crumbs and add the eggs as well as the orange zest. Using a spatula bring the dough together. It will be a bit crumbly, pour onto a sheet of clingfilm and gently pat down into a square and wrap in the clingfilm. Keep it in the fridge for a minimum of an hour, but is best if kept overnight.

Quick(ish) Custard

30g caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
3 egg yolks
260ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Using a glass or metal bowl whisk the sugar, cornflour, and egg yolks until lighter in color and you have incorporated a bit of air into them. Leave aside and heat the cream and vanilla together until it starts to produce little bubbles aka simmering. Gradually pour the now vanilla infused cream over the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the while.
Make a double boiler by placing your heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stir the custard until thick and creamy. Can take about 7-10 minutes. To test it use a spatula or spoon by dipping it into the custard and when you pull it out it shouldn't drip off the spoon, run your finger through the middle and if the trail your finger makes stays it's done.
Take off the heat and continue whisking for a few minutes before leaving in the fridge to cool for a minimum of 4 hours.

To Assemble: 

225g blackberries
Oat Crumble (optional) recipe found here.
Egg wash: 1 small egg, lightly beaten

Pastry: Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, to about 3mm or .3cm and cut into rounds to fit your muffin tin make sure to leave a little over the top for shrinkage. Press carefully into the muffin cavities, no need to grease. Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Take them out of the fridge and line with grease proof baking paper and line with baking beads or your choice of weight some people use rice. Blind bake for 10-15 minutes or until it starts to brown. Remove the baking beads and brush a very light layer of the egg wash over each pastry case and bake for an extra 2 minutes or so. Leave to cool completely before adding a blackberry or two depending how big they are to each case. Cover with the custard and oat crumble if using. Enjoy!

I shared these with my work colleagues and they had a deep discussion about how one of them didn't like blackberries, but were loving them with the custard and oat topping. Then I was asked what it was that was giving it that extra something and I said it was probably the orange zest in the pastry. With that revaluation it was readily agreed upon that that was what was giving it that something special. They are funny, I do love working with fellow foodies!

*recipe adapted from Sweet Tooth by Lily Vanilli

My Lady Jane: The not entirely true story by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows {book review}

It's time I confess I have been having an affair. An affair with books. Baking will forever be a love of mine, but in all honestly books were my first love. 

I have tried mixing my love of reading and baking before by adding in the hashtag #storybookbakes to my treats that were inspired by books and characters or a treat that actually appears in the story. 

Then I tried adding in my reading lists for the seasons, but I think I'd like to start reviewing books that I like on here along with a treat that was inspired by it. 

So, the first title I am going to review on here is My Lady Jane: The not entirely true story by Hand, Ashton, and Meadows.

My Lady Jane - the not entirely true story:

From the back cover: 
This is the story of a real Queen of England. Not the nasty version where her head is chopped off, but the one with lots of humour, romance, and galloping around. Lady Jane must keep her wits to survive, but it's tricky when your downfall is being plotted and your new husband forgets to tell you that he turns into a horse. 

My thoughts: 
I couldn't help, but love this story. Set in history with a lot of truths, I did my research, but with changes that make it an adventure instead of a sad tale of a girl who was queen for 9 days before being beheaded as a traitor. The story follows the cousins Lady Jane Grey and King Edward VI (son of King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour) who after he finds out he's dying names Jane his successor instead of one of his half-sisters Mary or Elizabeth. I don't want to give too much away, but the story is funny and entertaining I couldn't recommend it enough! 

If you are a stickler for history and don't like it being messed with then I wouldn't read this one! 

*Blackberry Crumble Custard Tarts - inspired by young King Edward's favorite berry - blackberries! Find the recipe here. 

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes

I have a very fuzzy memory of having mini cheesecakes like this when I was a kid. Maybe not Oreo's, but with a Vanilla Wafer or Nilla Wafers as the crust and a raspberry or strawberry topping. Either way when requested to have cheesecake for dessert I obliged. 

Cheesecake is great! But, and there is a but, it is super rich and sometimes a bit much to take on as a dessert. Therefore these "cupcake" cheesecakes are a great way to serve it without having to try and cut the perfect slice. Plus, one whole cookie acts as the base and saves loads of time and effort! Gotta love short cuts! 

Since Kraft have taken over Cadbury they have made Oreo Cadbury chocolate bars and at Easter we get Oreo Eggs - since it's that time of year I added these on top as a decoration! If it's not Easter add on a mini Oreo! Remember any sandwich cookie/biscuit would do as a base and the cheesecake flavors are endless! So, be creative and bake your favorite mini cheesecake, but to start this is how I made these! 

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes

makes 15
21 Chocolate Creme Cookies
455g full fat cream cheese
200g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temp
250ml sour cream
pinch of salt 

Heat the oven to 135C/275F and line a muffin tin with liners and place a whole cookie at the bottom of each liner. Beat the cream cheese until soft before gradually adding the sugar. Once combined add the vanilla and mix. Gently beat the eggs together in a bowl before gradually adding to the cream cheese mixture, scraping down the bowl as needed. Then add the sour cream and salt and beat. Chop up the remaining cookies, which should be 6 cookies, fold into the cream cheese mixture. Using a medium sized ice cream scoop fill the muffin liners with the cheesecake mixture. Bake for 22 minutes rotating the tins half way through baking. Filling will still be a bit wobbly, but should be slightly firm and colored on top. Leave to cool completely before placing in the fridge over night or for a minimum of 4 hours. 

Chocolate Glaze (optional)

170g of chocolate, mix of milk and dark or one or the other, broken up 
140ml double cream 

In a double broiler melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is almost melted remove from the heat and slowly add the double cream mixing in quick small circles with a whisk, until the mixture comes together and is smooth and shiny.

To Finish: Top the chilled cheesecakes with a tablespoon of the glaze and gently spread with the back of the spoon. Top with chocolate eggs or cookie or nothing and serve! 

Cookies and Cream is not just an ice cream flavor! These mini cheesecakes are just the right portion size and the cookie gives a nice texture to the creamy cheesecake, great for dessert or afternoon treat! 

* This is NOT a sponsored post. All views and opinions are my own. Please see my contact/policy page above for more information. Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart. 

* I linked this post up with Treat Petite hosted by The Baking Explorer and Cakeyboi 

Oat Crumble

This is a short and sweet post sharing how to make oat crumble for a number of different bakes and treats! I would use this on top of yogurt, ice cream, and custard as well as muffins! Will add a kick to any breakfast cereal and of course it's a different type of crumble for fruit crumbles. My girls were eating it as is!

Oat Crumble

110g salted butter, cold and cubed
110g oats
110g plain flour
110g dark muscovado sugar

Place all ingredients in a bowl and like if you were making a pastry rub between your fingers until it resembles bread crumbs. Spread over a prepared baking sheet (lined) and place in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before baking in a preheated oven at 180C for 10-15 minutes.
Let it cool before breaking up.

Then use as you want! Feel free to add other spices or ingredients like nuts. Also adjust the amounts to how much you want or need! Keeps for at least two weeks if stored in an airtight container.

Stay tuned for the recipe I used this Oat Crumble on!

Mountain Berry & Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani {book review}

Pakistan is one of those countries that intrigues me. I have never visited myself, but it sounds like a place of mystery and enchantment and I would love to go one day. Sumayya Usmani is based in the UK, but grew up in Pakistan, and has written an award-winning book Summers Under The Tamarind Tree. Following the success of that book she has written a second one titled Mountain Berry & Desert Spice: Sweet inspirations from the Hunza Valley to the Arabian Sea, which is the book we are here to discuss and it's out now!

There was a point when I first started this blog that I did a lot of research on sweets and treats from countries around the world and it's still something that intrigues me. Sumayya gives us a collection of great recipes inspired by family recipes and from travels across Pakistan. I read this book cover to cover and with so much choice I'm not sure what I will try first!

The "Key ingredients and techniques" chapter is very useful in knowing where to source or how to make  key things used in the following recipes. The majority of the ingredients I have heard of and/or used before, but a few of them are completely new to me and that gets me excited as I love trying new things! The following chapters are full of amazing sweet recipes full of flavor and the recipes listed below are the ones I would definitely get started with!

Sweet Vermicelli Pudding - with black cardamom and vanilla
Sweet Parathas - filled with date, walnut, and milk fudge
Bramble Gulgulay aka blackberry doughnuts
Gajrela - carrot rice pudding
Rabri kulfi sticks - with honey, cardamom, and bay leaf
Dar ni puri - sweet bread filled with channa daal and candied peel.
Sohan saffron honey caramels - with rose water, pistachio and almonds
Pakistani jalebi - spiralled fermented doughnuts in turmeric-infused syrup
Semolina halva ladoos - with buckwheat groats, pine nuts, aniseed and coconut.
Spiced apple samosas
Chitrali rishiki - pancakes with mulberry syrup
Mulberry and cherry fruit leather with crushed walnuts and pistachios
Fresh curd burutz cheese with walnuts, apricots, figs, and honey
Pakwan - wheat flour and jaggery rolls with aniseed.
Afghani gosh-e-fil - elephant ear-shaped fried pastry with ground pistachio and cardamom
Badami kulcha - almond and cardamom meringues
Khanfaroush - spiced saffron crumpets with honey
Meva naan - sweet bread with dried fruit
Saffron-infused zaria - sweet rice with nuts, coconut, candied fruit and khoya
Dadi's rasyawal pudding - cane sugar molasses rice pudding
Karachi halva - with pumpkin seeds and cashews

This is only a short list of what this book has to offer! If you have ever been curious about sweet treats in other parts of the world this book is for you! It's also for you if you just have a sweet tooth and need a change from your chocolate bar or bag of pick n' mix! And last but not least it's for those of you who have tasted and experience sweets from Pakistan, now you can create your favorite treats in the comfort of your own home!

*I was given a copy of Mountain Berry & Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani to review by the publisher, Frances Lincoln. Retails at £20 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page for more information.

Caramel Biscuit Fudge aka Twix Fudge

The blogging world has changed. Years ago people followed and read blogs all the time, but not any more. First because the world wide web is saturated with blogs. Blogs of fashion and beauty, food and parenting, gaming and movies the topics are endless. Then we have the internet aka social media outlets feeding our need for instant gratification with short videos showing us how to make ... well anything and everything!

Of course I am in the foodie world so my social media channels are full of short videos making fun recipes and one of the things that keeps showing up is fudge. How to make fudge with only 4 ingredients or by just using this or that! So, I thought I would give a few of these recipes a try. See if these simple recipes are that simple and to see if they taste like the fudge that takes forever......

So, I started with this recipe from Sally's Candy Addiction by Sally McKinney and Sally's Baking Addiction blog - One of the blogs I follow like a groupie.

Caramel Biscuit Fudge

1 can of sweetened condensed milk (from 14 oz can)
2 tablespoons caramel sauce
546g white chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla
⅛ teaspoon salt
140g Twix Bites

Line 8-by-8-inch pan with foil, leaving overhang on sides to remove fudge later.
In medium saucepan over medium heat, combine condensed milk, caramel and white chocolate. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat before stirring in vanilla and salt. Cool mixture 10 minutes.
Slowly and carefully fold in chopped Twix bars (to keep chocolate swirl intact). Pour and spread mixture into prepared pan. Cover pan with foil and refrigerate 4 hours or store at room temperature overnight.
Remove fudge from pan using foil as handles. Use sharp knife to cut fudge into 64 1-inch squares (if fudge has been refrigerated longer than 4 hours, let fudge sit at room temperature 20 minutes before cutting).

* for more delicious recipes like this check out Sally's blog (link above) and if you want to know more about her book Sally's Candy Addiction you can check out my review here


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